11 Things that will surprise you as an American living in the Netherlands

As a newcomer, the surprises had been infinite and as an American, they had been additionally complicated! Right here’s what to know and put together for if you transfer from the US to the Netherlands.

Once I moved overseas, I knew every little thing would change from the smallest particulars of life to the general image. Listed here are the most important variations I’ve observed as an American residing within the Netherlands.

1. Grocery shops

The US has many grocery shops with an astounding provide of products, from smaller ones like Dealer Joe’s to big-box ones like Costco. When you study to search out alternate options on your favorite recipes from dwelling, be reassured that almost all Dutch meals has fewer components than within the US as a consequence of stricter laws — a particular optimistic for well being! 

Supermarkets within the Netherlands are a marvel. They even work as your native put up workplace! Listed here are another issues that will shock you as an American purchasing a Dutch grocery retailer.


Most supermarkets have baskets with wheels you may pull round. Some even have purchasing carts, like Jumbo — a serious chain you’re relieved to see in English, besides it’s pronounced “yum-bo.” Sorry, false alarm!


These aren’t refrigerated and gained’t be present in chillers. They’re simply on an extraordinary aisle shelf. Why? The EU doesn’t permit eggs to be washed just like the US.


Solely beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks cans are offered in supermarkets, not exhausting liquor. Nevertheless, the costs are astounding because you often gained’t see wine over €10! If you wish to purchase exhausting alcohol you’ll want to move to the Sliterij, or liquor retailer.

€1 or much less

Surprisingly, you’ll find many objects for lower than €1. That’s not indicative of decrease high quality — that’s simply the value! Objects on this class generally is a bundle of cookies, frozen veggies like spinach, recent pastries like bakery croissants, a jar of pesto & extra.

Recycling centres

These are a lot larger than within the US at 25 cents for every bottle deposit or statiegeld. Meaning if you purchase plastic or glass bottles, you’ll pay a small quantity included within the worth. Nevertheless, you will get your deposit again when you recycle at a machine positioned within the retailer.


Just like the US, there’s a self-checkout space however within the Netherlands, you gained’t be capable to depart the grocery retailer with out scanning your receipt’s barcode. Additionally, baggers don’t exist and also you’ll study what stress feels prefer to sustain with the cashier scanning your items.

2. Meals

The Netherlands is known for its tulips, clogs, windmills, and stroopwafels. Nevertheless, for those who didn’t know, there are different quirks to the Dutch weight loss program. 


Neglect about every little thing the US tells you about carbs and consuming much less bread if you wish to slot in. Bread is a staple in Dutch tradition. You’ll see lengthy traces at farmers markets on the bread stands for the recent selection and for those who go to the grocery retailer late, this part could be naked. Don’t be shocked for those who see folks strolling round munching on bread or carrying clear luggage of it! 


The opposite important to a Dutch lunch. In the event you love cheese, you’re in for a deal with as a result of this land has tons of it. You’ll by no means be the identical after accessing tons of of sorts of cheese, and also you’ll get to see enormous, spherical wheels of it. In the event you purchase some at specialist cheese outlets or farmers market stands, you may often get a beneficiant pattern for those who ask. Who wants Costco samples anymore?

Additionally, let’s discuss Gouda cheese. That cute cheese People name “goo-duh” is definitely pronounced as “how-duh” in Dutch. You’re welcome as a result of for those who anglify when ordering it, you’ll be met with confusion and, better of luck to you. 


The American ketchup is king, within the Netherlands it’s mayonnaise. Sounds … attention-grabbing? Strive it, you’ll doubtless find it irresistible greater than you care to confess. Don’t worry although, you may nonetheless discover ketchup right here if previous habits die exhausting.

Dutch fries win over French each time. Picture: rclassenlayouts/Depositphotos

3. Eating places

Eating out is bound to have a number of surprises, completely different from what you’re accustomed to in America. 


Faucet water isn’t given out willy nilly over right here. You’ll be requested if you would like nonetheless or glowing and must badger them for a kraanwater. In relation to sodas, gone are the times of a medium, massive or XL refillable dimension. Within the Netherlands, you’ll be getting a petite glass bottle smaller than your telephone. And don’t even take into consideration asking for refills!

Getting espresso within the Netherlands can also be a very completely different ball recreation. These will doubtless be smaller than what you’ve seen normalised at Starbucks. No extra tall, grande or venti sizes! Iced espresso additionally doesn’t exist all over the place and make it possible for there are ice cubes since ijs koffee may also imply discovering a scoop of ice cream in it. 

Doggy luggage

Leftovers being taken dwelling merely aren’t as widespread right here because the parts usually are not as massive because the US, however in recent times it’s slowly changing into extra acceptable to make this request. I’ll always remember the time I acquired my leftovers in a plastic yoghurt container two years in the past, however I appreciated the trouble! 


That is truly handy as you merely have to flag your server down and they’ll carry a handheld bank card machine so you may pay proper out of your seat. Oh yeah, and don’t fret for those who can’t make the tip. This isn’t customary in eating places and even magnificence companies.

Nearly all of service staff within the Netherlands make a livable wage, in contrast to within the US the place suggestions are closely relied upon. You possibly can undoubtedly provide, however some folks will refuse (madness).

3. Purchasing

The US actually has its residents spoiled with comfort, but additionally at the price of staff who work late or lengthy hours. What did we actually ever want from Goal at 10 PM?  

Opening hours

It’s not unusual to see shops or companies open from 8-10 AM and shut at 6 PM. Weekends often have outlets closing by 5 PM. On Sundays, many companies open at 12 PM, corresponding to grocery shops, however some don’t open in any respect. If the institution is open on Sunday, they could be closed on Monday as a substitute for a relaxation day.

Also referred to as koopavond in Dutch, many cities observe this with shops closing later than normal at 9 PM and sometimes on a Thursday or Friday. Within the Amsterdam purchasing space, it’s possible you’ll discover later weekday purchasing hours with shops closing at 8 or 9 PM. 


Not all shops will settle for Visa or Mastercard, particularly smaller Dutch institutions they usually aren’t accepted in grocery chains corresponding to Albert Heijn or Jumbo. Extra recognisable retail shops are more likely to settle for Visa or Mastercard fortunately, but it surely’s greatest to have a Dutch banking card or euros readily available for those who’re new!

And bear in mind, the value you see is the value you pay, all taxes are already included.

4. Working Tradition

The Dutch working tradition is verrry completely different to the US. There’s such a factor as work-life steadiness. Breaks are actively inspired, whether or not it’s a ten minute espresso break or your annual depart. Talking of holidays, they’re known as “happening vacation,” within the Netherlands. You get 4x your weekly working hours so for those who work 40 hours every week, you’re entitled to 160 hours or 20 days of off within the yr.

Additionally, extra time isn’t actually a factor. Not like the US, it’s not as widespread and probably even unusual. So get able to clock out and get dwelling in time for that early Dutch dinner, until you’re staying for borrel in fact.

5. Driving

The Netherlands is known for its bike-riding inhabitants and public transportation is thought to be glorious too. Loads of folks do drive vehicles and also you’ll be relieved to know the Dutch drive on the precise facet of the highway just like the US, however listed below are some issues to know. And be careful for all these roundabouts (belief me, you’ll study what these are fairly shortly).

Think about if this was your every day commute. Picture: nilaya/Depositphotos


At first look, gas seems low cost, particularly if it begins with a €1 one thing, but it surely’s offered in litres, not gallons, that are a lot smaller. There are roughly 3.7 litres in 1 gallon, so if you do the mathematics, it provides as much as roughly the identical quantity as within the US. 

Pace limits

Floor roads are sometimes 31 mph and freeways are a most of 75 mph. Why such odd increments of pace? As a result of mph isn’t a factor right here, however km/h is. It’ll take a second to get used to kilometres, so for those who’re driving, be sure you’re not considering in miles, or it’s possible you’ll get a rushing ticket as a consequence of many cameras! Fortunately although, you don’t see many cops hiding in bushes ready to catch you!

6. 4 seasons in a day

Relying on the place you’re from in America, it’s possible you’ll or is probably not shocked by the climate and seasons right here. Though winter could be brutal with low temperatures right down to -6 levels Celcius, spring makes up for it with its lovely blooms!

The climate could be tumultuous even in at some point, and even an hour the place you may expertise sunshine, overcast clouds, wind, and rain. However there’s much less year-round solar, so it is perhaps value investing in a Vitamin D lamp or taking dietary supplements. It helps preserve away the S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Dysfunction).

Dutch summers

They’re lengthy days, with the solar rising round 5 AM and the solar setting at 10:30 PM, usually not darkish till 11 PM! When it’s heat or good out, you will notice many individuals on their balconies or rooftops, sitting canal-side and even bringing their very own tables out in alleys and sidewalks to dine with pals. You could even spot the occasional sofa.

7. Measurements

That is certain to be a ache relating to cooking, climate, clothes alterations, haircuts and extra because the U.S. is just one of some nations on the planet that makes use of a unique system for temperature and measurement. Welcome to gibberish in numbers.  The U.S. makes use of the Imperial system of toes, inches, kilos, ounces, and so on. whereas the Netherlands/EU makes use of the metric system for meters, centimeters, kilos, grams, and so on. I discover it useful to ask for the way lengthy it takes to get someplace if I don’t bear in mind the conversion for distance. 

We’re additionally the few that use the Fahrenheit system as a substitute of Celsius for temperature. Our numbers sound excruciatingly excessive/sizzling to Europeans, whereas what the heck is 10 levels Celsius? Your greatest guess is to discover a temperature you favor and convert it to Celsius as a place to begin or understanding what 0 levels appears like (spoiler: it’s chilly).

8.Time and date

In the event you’re from America, you’re accustomed to the date format MM/DD/YY, however the Netherlands makes use of DD/MM/YY format. That is particularly necessary when filling out paperwork or making appointments and reservations. 😅

In the event you already know easy methods to inform army time, it’ll make your life simpler in all of Europe. It’s one factor it’s also possible to begin within the U.S. earlier than you progress, as I did for enjoyable earlier than I knew I’d grow to be an expat.

Observe: for those who aren’t certain the 12-hour clock is if you use am-pm, the 24-hour army time. So, 12:00 midnight is 00:00 in army time.

I want it stopped there, however telling the time within the Netherlands will get much more complicated. You’ll discover that asking a Dutch particular person for the time could set you in a tailspin. In the event you ask for the time at 9:30 PM, they’ll let you know it’s “ten thirty”. What the hell Dutchies? I may go into telling you the intricacies of Dutch time telling, however you might write an entire article on simply that.

9. Siren

What’s that blaring noise? No, the town will not be on fireplace! On the primary Monday of each month, your municipality will do a siren check at 12 PM. Don’t be confused or alarmed. It’s the Dutch manner of testing the general public warning system which feels like a historic sound from wars previous. 

10. Restrooms

Carry a few euro cash or have your card prepared since caring for enterprise isn’t free in locations just like the airport or gasoline stations. I do know what you’re considering, gasoline stations… excellent news, they’re not as scary as those within the US. In truth, gasoline stations within the Netherlands are nice, they usually even promote flower bouquets out entrance. 

11. The nation itself

Don’t make the rookie mistake of calling it Holland. This can be a area not the official title of the nation — The Netherlands is.

Now that you just’ve learn by means of this checklist, hopefully, you’re a little bit extra ready or realized one thing new about your new dwelling within the Netherlands. The expat journey is a tough one, however embrace the cultural variations and you’ll get a lot extra in return by preserving an open thoughts to alter!

What variations have you ever observed as an American residing within the Netherlands? Or what would you discover most tough for those who moved right here? Tell us within the feedback!

Function Picture: twixx/Depositphotos

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